Here’s a story I think is like ‘Jack and the bean tomato stalk’: or also called an update in our experiment to grow great tomatoes.
In early spring this gardener’s family were looking wistfully at the tomatoes bought from shops – solid chunks of red which looked like a tomato but didn’t taste of much at all. So, I decided to aim high – for something better – quality, taste, and an abundant harvest.
I planted seeds early [over a heat pad so they were warm enough to decide to sprout – tomatoes are warmth-lovers]. I planted seeds from varieties which had grown well in past years.
And I also bought an early seedling cherry tomato from a garden shop – you know the ones – where the little seedlings are shivering in September cold winds? I know it’s too early and they struggle when they are cold but thought ‘we can only give it a go’ so home it came with us.
To sit on the back-patio pavers, in a nook protected from the cold winds blowing through, where the sunlight encouraged it to grow, and was surrounded by a clear plastic bag to make its own ‘mini-greenhouse’. It liked this place.
And grew, and grew, and out-grew its plastic hot-house – and its pot.
It was still very early, well before traditional time to plant tomatoes out into the garden. So, we improvised. For the details of what we did, see post Joy in growing and eating early tomatoes
And, in the garden, it grew, and grew, and out-grew its plastic hot-house in the garden too. So, I slit the top of the plastic-bag and let the new shoots grow freely up, up and away. I made more holes in the bag for air flow.
And still it grew, pushing new shoots outwards, trying to grow through the bag. So, next, I folded the bag down, rescued the shoots, encouraged them to go where I wanted rather than out onto the patio, over the parsley, the beans and anything else. Cherry toms growing well make a rampant, large vine! In fact, we have a hedge of tomatoes now.
Traditional wisdom says to remove lateral shoots to increase air flow so disease pockets are minimized. I find this a challenge!
The little plant I nurtured lovingly is now growing wonderfully, happily and I like watching happy plants. How could I hurt it by taking parts of it away? I leave it to grow as it will.
I do keep a watchful eye on plants. If/when I see diseased leaves or stems I remove them. Removing sources of infection, reduces the spores floating around the plants. Diseased leaves with blight have black patches or streaks, so these are taken far from tomato plants pronto quick when I find them.
Yellowing leaves, mottled leaves, dead, black or oddly curling leaves, I remove.
I also remove leaves from the lower stems so there are none resting down onto the ground where they would be closest to disease spores.
Keeping a covering of clean newspaper and mulch over the ground which could have spores present, seems to have greatly reduced the potential for damage so far.
Having plants close to the back door and patio means I see them frequently, so it’s easy to care for these ones. The other plants are scattered around gardens further away and get far less attention. These others went in around late October and are growing much more slowly than the cherry varieties near the patio. Most are 20-30 cm tall at present, and just starting to flower.
The experiment to grow early, great tomatoes is so far, a resounding success, providing our first [red] tomato of the season in late November – woo hoo!
I’ll do a review after harvests finish next autumn, so if you are interested, keep a look out, or join our mailing list to receive it to your inbox.
The technique we used this year has already given far better plant growth and harvest than last year’s efforts where we added compost and planted sort-of ‘normally’. We’ll certainly consider this for crops in future years.